Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Keep U.S. domestic politics out of the whaling debate
SHIRAISHI Yuriko / Executive Director of Association of Daily Japanese Life and Couture/Representative of Women's Forum for Fish

October 31, 2000
This autumn, Japan and the United States have found themselves enmeshed in a renewed conflict over the issue of whaling. Japan triggered the conflict by expanding the list of whale species it catches in the western North Pacific under its research whaling program, adding sperm whales and Bryde's whales to the single species of minke whales it had previously hunted in those seas. Japan announced its new research plans ahead of a July meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) that took place in Adelaide, Australia.

The Japanese government had concluded it was appropriate to add sperm whales and Bryde's whales to its research target, since both are species internationally recognized as being abundant in supply. However, the United States, which designates both whales as endangered species under its domestic law, warned it will invoke the Pelly Amendment and take economic sanctions against Japan if it went ahead with its plans to hunt sperm whales and Bryde's whales.

Though Japan delayed the departure of its research whaling vessel "Nisshin-Maru," the ship eventually set sail for the western North Pacific at the end of July. Its goal is to capture 100 minke whales, 10 sperm whales and 50 Bryde's whales.

In response to Japan's decision, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Mineta took a retaliatory step against Japan on September 13, announcing that Japanese fishing vessels will be "denied access to allotments for fishing in U.S. waters," and simultaneously initiating the process for invoking the Pelly Amendment. The Clinton Administration is expected to reach a decision within 60 days, by November 13. Pearls and boiled crab paste are reportedly among Japanese products targeted by the sanctions. The Japanese government, on its part, intends to appeal to the World Trade Organization, should the U.S. decide to slap sanctions against Japan.

The debate over whaling is fundamentally a reflection of the different values attached to whales by various nations and ethnic groups. However, those values are by no means constant, and have undergone change over time. In fact, up until the 1950s, the United States, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands were among the world's leading whaling nations that utilized whale oil for industrial purposes. Today, those who wish to hunt whales include countries like Japan, Norway and Iceland, as well as ethnic groups such as the native inhabitants of Alaska, Russia and Canada. These are all nations and peoples that have traditionally depended on marine products as their main staple, to whom whales are just another source of food. To be sure, this group currently represents only a minority in the international community.

The United States is in the midst of a presidential election year, and voters will go to the polls on November 7. The race for the presidency is expected to be unusually close this year, and under such circumstances, lobbyists for all causes are exerting more influence in grabbing the attention of presidential candidates. The Democratic Party, which has typically been sensitive to demands made by environmental groups and non-governmental organizations, has reacted favorably to organizations involved in the whaling issue, no doubt with an eye on the presidential elections.

Meanwhile, the Japanese government has been consistent in its position that whaling should be permitted for those species which exist in numbers more than sufficient to guarantee conservation, based on scientific research conducted by the IWC. And this position has gained widespread approval at home. Japan should respond rationally to recent U.S. moves concerning sanctions and maintain its efforts towards creating new rules for utilizing marine resources under the auspices of the IWC. It should take on a leading role in the world towards enriching marine science through cetacean research.

It was perhaps wise that the Clinton Administration postponed its decision on retaliatory measures until after the presidential elections. The whaling issue should be resolved through scientific debate unaffected by the domestic political considerations of a specific nation. Otherwise, there is a danger that the issue could invite unnecessary emotional conflict between Japan and the United States. And for that reason, I hope the U.S. administration will exercise prudence and opt to avoid sanctions once the elections are over.

The writer is Executive Director of Association of Daily Japanese Life and Couture, a voluntary organization to introduce Japan's traditional cultures to the world. She is also Representative of Women's Forum for Fish.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

白石 ユリ子 / 日本生活文化交流協会事務局長・ウーマンズフォーラム魚 代表

2000年 10月 31日
2000年の秋、クジラをめぐる新たな対立が日米間で起きている。発端は、日本が北西太平洋の調査捕鯨で対象とするクジラとして、従来のミンククジラ一種から、マッコウクジラとニタリクジラも加えた三種にしたことだ。7月に豪州アデレードで開催された国際捕鯨委員会( IWC)の前に日本政府がこの新たな調査計画を発表したことから、対立は始まった。  








(筆者は日本生活文化交流協会(日本の伝統文化を世界に紹介するボランティア団体)事務局長。ウーマンズフォーラム魚 代表。)
一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟

English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Keep U.S. domestic politics out of the whaling debate